Nelson Emerson, Mike O’Connell, Kim Dillabaugh, Glen Murray and Mike Donnelly form a development staff that has received its share of recognition through the team’s ability to incorporate younger players around a dynamic core that has grown together. Former King farmhand and current Toronto Maple Leaf Brandon Kozun praised the team’s development group earlier this week, telling Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com that the staff is “elite.”
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for that, I probably would never be in this position. I am the player that I am today because of some coaches in that organization. I owe them a lot,” said Kozun, who recorded an assist in his NHL debut on Wednesday.
Emerson, O’Connell, Dillabaugh, Murray and Donnelly aren’t on the ice with the club during the regular season but travel to work with the club’s prospects in Manchester and elsewhere as part of the overall development plan that General Manager Dean Lombardi has in place. As Darryl Sutter noted, the individual instruction and skill retention that comes both before and after Kings practices is a “continuation” of the development staff’s efforts guiding the younger players.
“In the big picture, if you’re watching, seeing guys who are working on that stuff here, that’s no different than if Nelly and Muzz were out there with them, because that’s exactly what that same age group is doing in Manchester,” Sutter said. “Those players, you watch, even guys like Drew, that when they feel like they’re not quite on a little bit, or Kopi, you watch him game days, he likes do to some little bit of extra shooting, and it’s part of their routine, and it’s also part of knowing that they’re working on improving.”
Players are continually fine tuning their games, even if they’re already adept in particular areas. Tyler Toffoli continues to work on his shot, even though he’s known for having among the quickest releases on the team.
“I think just with Nelly and Muzz, we did shooting clinics obviously when I was coming up, development camp and everything,” Toffoli said. “Shooting a heavy puck, I tried to shoot some over the summer and continue to get my release quicker and my shot harder.”
The release is the most important aspect of an effective shot, according to Dustin Brown.
“I think at this level it’s more about releases,” Brown said. “You look at the guys who have high goal totals – in particular on our team it’s Carts, Gabby, the way Ty shoots the puck – their releases are a half second quicker than most. And as a result, they put the puck in the net a lot. It’s not because their shots are pinpoint or very accurate, it’s more that they get it off quick.”
Now in his third year in the league, Toffoli is starting to pick up on goaltending tendencies. He also receives pointers from the club’s Goaltending Coach, Bill Ranford.
“I think Billy does a good job before games,” Toffoli said. “He lets us know their tendencies and I think you look for it during the game and obviously there are certain times they’re not going to be in normal position. You’ve got to have your head up. Every goalie in the league is obviously very good, so they’re going to be able to make really good saves.”
Dustin Brown, on whether shooters are aiming for the short side more regularly:
It’s just something to talk about really. Guys…aren’t coming down thinking they’re going to shoot for a side. It’s where the puck is going in maybe more right now, but in two years you might be saying it’s going far side all the time. I know it depends on the goalie for me. There are certain goalies I have played long enough against that I know I’m not going to beat them on their glove side. Or the best example is where I shoot on Joner or Quickie is a result of seeing them every day in practice. A lot of that in practice drills, you’re shooting where you think you can beat a goalie.
Brown, on how he decides where he’s going to shoot:
I think a lot goes into it. Two-on one, three-on-two, breakaways, they’re all different situations if you have a guy driving the backside. If you look at the cup winning goal, it’s a shot pretty much to the weak side pad and a rebound. And that’s a lot of times what guys are trying to do, just create a rebound for another guy. [Reporter: That’s like what you see at practice thousands of times a year.] Yeah, pretty much.
Tyler Toffoli, on whether shooters are aiming for the short side more regularly:
It obviously depends on the situation and where you are. I guess I goalies are kind of cheating over thinking it’s going to be a pass, but I think goalies know certain guys might shoot or certain guys might pass. So they’re cheating or they’re staying in normal position. I really couldn’t tell you about that though.
Darryl Sutter, on Robyn Regehr’s first meaningful game since the Anaheim series:
Yeah, he had a good camp. I mean, he was ready to go in the finals, but we didn’t have a good reason to take anybody out was the biggest reason, and then the second biggest reason was he’d been off for whatever it was – five or six weeks – and that’s almost like bringing Gabby back the other night. You can’t afford to have guys not totally sharp.